Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Veterans Sue VA Over Freedom of Speech/Religion

Three local veterans groups have accused VA officials at the Houston National Cemetery of banning such religious words as "God" and censoring their prayers at soldiers' funerals.

For background, read Houston Pastors Ask VA Official be Fired and also read Feds Fail to Ban Jesus from Memorial Day at Houston VA Cemetery

-- From "Houston National Cemetery in Prayer Dispute" by James Dao, New York Time 8/30/11

The [Veterans Affairs'] new enforcement outraged members of local veterans organizations who have long infused their ceremonies with references to God. This summer, they filed a lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs that has turned the national cemetery into a battleground over the role of prayer in veterans’ burials.

The plaintiffs, aided by a conservative legal group, the Liberty Institute, contend they should be allowed to use a Veterans of Foreign Wars script dating from World War I that refers to the deceased as “a brave man” with an “abiding faith in God” and that seeks comfort from an “almighty and merciful God.” The institute has publicized the dispute nationwide with slick videos and a Web site declaring that “Jesus is not welcome at gravesides.”

The lawsuit, which alleges religious discrimination by the government, and the videos have generated angry letters and Internet commentary against the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as demands from members of the Texas Congressional delegation, mostly Republicans, that the Obama administration fire the Houston cemetery director, Arleen Ocasio.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Judge seeks settlement in VA discrimination suit" by Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press 8/22/11

The lawsuit filed by the Veterans of Foreign Wars District 4, the American Legion Post 586 and the National Memorial Ladies says VA officials barred prayer and religious speech in burials at the Houston cemetery unless families submit a specific prayer or message in writing to the cemetery's director. The lawsuit also accuses VA officials of not allowing them to use religious words such as "God" or "Jesus."

During a hearing on the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes . . . criticized what he believed were efforts by the VA to portray members of the National Memorial Ladies, a local nonprofit that honors veterans and their families, as "old ladies ... attacking people" with religious messages.

Hughes also [said] that attorneys for the veterans groups have continued to amplify their claims by "supplying excruciating detail," including affidavits by veterans and relatives who believe they have been discriminated against by VA officials.

"We have to solve this problem," the judge said.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.